Iluka Lanka Resources powers leadership among children in Wanathawilluwa

Saturday, 3 November 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Seven groups of children attending six schools in the Wanathawilluwa Division, Puttalam, were treated to a rare opportunity to attend a three-day leadership workshop, where they learned to look at community issues creatively, and develop a well-thought-out and innovative solution.   

The program, held from 22-24 September, was an initiative of Iluka Lanka Resources Ltd. in partnership with KidsRights, an organisation based in the Netherlands committed to the furtherance of children’s rights across the world, and was designed and implemented by Without Borders.   

Appropriately named ‘Ideator,’ the program employed the concept of ‘design thinking,’ setting aside traditional leadership development models so that students could learn to think more creatively.  After walking the groups through the basics, they were tasked on the second day to work as groups, identify a community problem, and design a solution.   

On the third day, the teams presented these plans to actually pitch their ideas to a panel of evaluators. The teams had to convince not only the panel, but had to field questions from each other.  

The panel adjudged the proposal of the Mailankulama team as the most innovative and effective solution. They had focused on the provision of clean drinking water for the school, and designed a project to fund a water-filtering system. The team was rewarded with Rs 30,000 to actually implement their ideas over the next three months.  

On the final day of the program, the winning presentation was announced, and certificates awarded to all the participants.  

The event was attended by representatives from Iluka Lanka Resources Country Manager Victor Araujo, Principal Mining Engineer Adrianna Skok-Muir and Senior Geologist Tess Reynolds, Education Department Puttalam Zone Wanathawilluwa Division Senior Teacher Trainer W.A.P Nilmini Fernando, Mailankulama Kanishta Vidyalaya Principal W. M. H. Wanninayaka, Serakkuliya Kanishta Vidyalaya Principal N.W. Buddika Pramesh, Bandaranayakapura Maha Vidyalaya Principal B.K Priyantha, and representatives from the Eluwankulama School, project leaders of Without Borders, volunteer teachers representing the Puttalam Project, and parents. The Serakkuliya Kanishta Vidyalaya Principal N.W Buddika Pramesh observed that the leadership program was in fact a game-changer.  ‘I saw students working hard in teams until late last night to prepare for the session today. I am grateful to both Without Borders for conducting this program, as well as Iluka Lanka Resources for supporting our school, which lacks resources. I must mention that the volunteer teacher project funded by Iluka has also been a real blessing to my school. We didn’t have a Mathematics teacher, and our volunteer teacher has worked hard to develop our students’ knowledge and skills. The results are quite evident when we compare how the students performed in the end semester exam results with their performance during the previous semester.  We hope this program will continue into the future.’ 

W.A.P Nilmini Fernando said that although she was aware of Iluka’s contributions to the community, it was with this project that she felt its full force. ‘We wouldn’t have known that these children, our children, had the capacity to stand up and advocate for change, to create budgets, to create floor plans, if not for Iluka.  We always talk about solutions, but we never go to the grassroots level to ask for solutions. Today was a great eye-opener, and I am honoured and thrilled to be a part of this.’   

The students, the ultimate beneficiaries, were highly appreciative of Iluka’s efforts. One of the students of Bandaranayakapura Maha Vidyalaya, for instance, claimed that the entire program was a revelation: ‘We were involved in a leadership boot camp for the past three days. We worked really hard and we are very grateful to the work put in by the Ideator Team and of course Iluka Lanka Resources.’ 

Speaking at the event, Ideator Project Manager Theja Jayasinghe thanked all the Principals of the participating schools for trusting her with their children. ‘The road so far has not been smooth, but we have managed to be here today and I think it’s an achievement on its own. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Without Borders team for being there for me. It has been a privilege to work with all the students. Our volunteer teachers have helped us immensely to make this day a reality and my heartfelt gratitude goes to them. I would also like to thank Iluka Lanka Resources for all the support they have given. Without Borders wouldn’t have known about Wanathawilluwa or wouldn’t have been able to do the kind of work we are doing today without them.’